Policy ForumBiosecurity

Promoting biosecurity by professionalizing biosecurity

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Science  21 Feb 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6480, pp. 856-858
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba0376

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New biotechnologies have the power to transform medicine, provide new sources of energy, and fill an expanding need for renewable, biologically derived products (the “bioeconomy”). But many of these powerful technologies and their products have the potential to be exploited for malevolent purposes or subverted to cause harm. Although many natural, accidental, and deliberate biological threats are governed by laws, agency- and national-level strategies, international instruments, guidance documents, and best risk management practices (1, 2), these policies and practices are often based on a defined list of pathogens and toxins (1, 3, 4), do not necessarily mitigate the risks of the hazards, are not flexible to address new discoveries, may be political in nature, and may not keep pace with technological and workforce advances (5, 6). We suggest that such limitations and variability in biosecurity policy and practice internationally could be addressed in part by enhancing and growing a workforce able to identify, assess, mitigate, and communicate security risks and solutions. We outline core competencies that such professionals should demonstrate and key steps needed to grow the profession by establishing a biosecurity credential.

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